Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007: A Year of Culinary Types

Just one year ago, I wondered what I would possibly write about.

I’d created the Culinary Types blog as a means to pursue a regular writing discipline about something so core to my life – food. Yet as 2007 loomed, I had no formal classes planned, and no culinary travels on the calendar.

What would I possibly write about?

It turned out that the answer to that question was almost as easy as, “What shall I eat?” The options were endless. In fact, I wrote over 100 entries in 2007.

While Culinary Types is about writing, it is far more than words – it is the people at the heart of each story. For without them, food would just be ingredients, or so much organic matter. Each “Culinary Type” adds key ingredients to the recipe that creates this ongoing chronicle: artistry, care, technique, passion, a spirit of adventure and a deeply-rooted personal history that connects them to the food they offer at this table.

There were so many Culinary Types that captivated me in 2007:

There were chefs who left their corporate jobs to pursue their passion for food, like Juan Pablo Chavez, founder of Healthy Meals JPC in New York City, and John MacPherson of the B&B The Foster Harris House in Little Washington, Virginia who with his wife Diane serves up exquisite breakfasts of pure fantasy and the best hospitality on the East Coast.

We dined with home cooks, like my friend Jill from Ottawa who meticulously researched and jointly mastermind the American-Canadian Cooking Project, and inspired a Locally-Grown Canadian Feast, two cross-country culinary collaborations. And, we followed the trials and tribulations of my own kitchen experiments from sushi to tagine.

We met food artisans who care deeply about their craft, like Jon Wright who produces creamy Vermont gouda cheese at Taylor Farm, and the Sprague family who invite the public into their rustic sugar house to learn about the production of pure Vermont maple syrup.

There were epicurean delights, like my birthday celebration dinner at The Inn at Little Washington.

We learned about the science of the kitchen from trend-makers like “The Curious Cook” Harold McGee, while I joined my friend “Lee Sloan,” a grand dame of food and wine, to investigate the cutting-edge phenomena of molecular gastronomy and raw food.

We tasted the creations of skilled bakers, like Tante Kremer’s Hungarian Nut Torte, and sampled a fluffy procession of Retro Cakes, uncovered by the Old Foodie. The names of the original creators may be lost to the annals of time, but every crumb was infused with history, flavor and emotion.

We journeyed with culinary road warriors like my colleague “Splint McCullough,” experiencing first-hand this avowed carnivore’s religious experience with roast beef at the world-renowned Carnegie Deli.

And of course, there were food bloggers – new friends like Lydia of the Perfect Pantry and her wonderful Drop In and Decorate program, and Susan the Food Blogga and her fascination with eating Christmas Cookies! But, a review of 2007 would not be complete without a mention of my delicious, surprise meeting with the brilliant Veronica, proprietor of the blogosphere’s top test kitchen. That was indeed an unexpected culinary treat!

I am submitting my list of 2007 Culinary Types to “One Hot Stove” and Nupur’s "Best of 2007" event. I just recently learned of "One Hot Stove" at Lydia’ Perfect Pantry, and I’m looking forward to discovering more about Indian regional food from Nupur in 2008.

What will I write about in 2008? I’ve only just begun to explore locally-grown foods, and I’m curious about American regional cooking, so there may be some "Low Country" cuisine from the American South in my near future.

I do wonder what I’ll write about in 2008, but I have a feeling the feast has just begun.

Happy New Year!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Visions of Sugar Plums

At the risk of sounding like a culinary Scrooge, there is probably no such thing as a sugar plum. The term is not listed in Larousse Gastronomique, so it’s probably not gastronomically sound. Indeed, there are listings for sugar beet, sugar cane, caster sugar and barley sugar in the Oxford Companion to Food, but alas, no listing for sugar plums. There is a Wikipedia Sugar Plum entry, but it is a suspiciously vague stub, having more to do with the Night before Christmas, and the Nutcracker Ballet.

Perhaps sugar plums are more a state of mind than of sugar consumption, because if the last few days are any indication, I do believe that sugar plums indeed exist.

The delicate top of the miraculous Pear Custard Pie prepared for my brother Ken and sister-in-law Pam’s annual Caroling Party has the effect of a white poinsettia or “angel wings” in the snow. It is so simple and elegant, and offers the sweet nectar of Bartlett pears and a feathery golden custard filling.

The second annual Christmas Pudding, is a mountainous, amber-colored Steamed Date Pudding with Whiskey Sauce that is the grand finale of my Christmas Day Dinner. A weekly showering of Irish whiskey makes it a truly spirited and festive dessert, so potent that my nephew Doug, a fraternity-dweller, even thinks it packs a punch.

A half-cup of whiskey is warmed and then poured over the pudding. Then a flick of the Bic, and blue flames dance merrily about the pudding. After a day of revelry, and serving dinner to nine people, it sure ignites my holiday cheer!

If you’ve never seen an actual Christmas Pudding blazing, click on the clip below – almost live – from my dinner table on Christmas Day. But, don’t look away, because the flame is fleeting, much like the holiday season.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tante Kremer’s Hungarian Nut Torte

Over the years, my mother would often mention Tante Kremer’s Hungarian Nut Torte. It was a favorite from her childhood and she’d tried to bake it as an adult, but had not had much success. It is just days before Christmas, and I have decided to see if I can create a special gift for Mom. I will attempt to recreate Tante’s Hungarian Nut Torte. Marcel Proust said flavors could inspire a range of memories, so what better gift to give a loved one at the holidays?

The recipe is written in my Grandmother Hilda’s handwriting. Apparently she wrote it down for my mother shortly after she and my dad got married and made their home in Far Rockaway, Long Island. It seems deceptively simple, but I immediately notice some possible gaps in the recipe.

I remember stories of Tante and Uncle. I have vague memories of meeting them, and sitting as a child on what seemed like a vast staircase in their entry hall in College Point, Long Island.

Mom adds the additional history that I’m missing. She writes:

We called her simply “Tante” and her husband “Uncle.” But they were Elizabeth and Joseph Kremer, my father’s aunt and uncle who had emigrated from Hungary. My father’s mother died when my father was a teenager and Tante mothered him from then on. Tante and Uncle’s home in College Point, Long Island became Dad’s home more than his own. In fact, I never remember talk of any other home. Dad absolutely adored Tante and Uncle and his three cousins Rose, Katie and Margaret. He became one of their family.

Tante was an excellent baker and had several specialties that were baked year in and year out for the holidays and for celebrating special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. I remember four types of cookies: 1) Kupfel (horn) filled cookies made with cream cheese and butter, which were like mini-croissants filled with apricot or prune butter, 2) Walnut Egg White Kisses like swirls of meringue with a walnut half in the middle that just melted in your mouth, 3) Hard, flat, round anisette cookies about the size of a 50 cent piece, 4) Rolled butter cookies cut in shapes – stars, crescents, diamonds, hearts – brushed with egg whites and sprinkled with finely chopped nuts mixed with fine granulated sugar – so fragile and delicate they just melted in your mouth. My Mom became very proficient at making the rolled butter cookies. For Christmas Eve, Tante made round donuts with coins baked in the centers – pennies, nickels, and dimes for good luck.

Most delightful of all was Tante’s Hungarian Torte which was made for every special occasion – thin layers of cake made with chopped hazelnuts and put together with whipped heavy cream. Heavenly!

Only three of Tante’s recipes survive – Kupfel, Walnut Kisses and Nut Torte, although I believe my cousin has a yeast coffee cake recipe of Tante’s. These recipes are somewhat sketchy and lacking in detail because Tante just made these delights “by heart.”

The scene at my oven is like a slightly fractured version of Veronica’s Test Kitchen. The counter is strewn with blown-up versions of handwritten recipes, open cook books containing guidance on baking tortes, and stray bread crumbs and hazelnuts. My first version flops badly, because I follow the apparent direction in the original handwritten recipe, and use two spring form pans. The two layers are far too thin and fragile and stick to the bottom of the pan. I toss the results, and I’m almost tempted to head for the bakery and purchase some holiday cookies. But Veronica is my inspiration for constant focus and experimentation. I am determined to get this right. I try to muster all of my pastry training, and focus on the proper techniques for sponge cakes, tortes and flourless cakes. I scrupulously adhere to the methods for whipping egg whites. The following formula is successful:

Tante Kremer’s Hungarian Nut Torte

5 eggs separated
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted with skins removed, and chopped fine in a nut grinder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup fine white bread crumbs
1 cup sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Grease only the bottom (not the sides) of a 9.5 inch spring form pan. Cut a circle of parchment, and place it in the pan, and grease the parchment as well.

3) In a stand mixer, beat the eggs yolks on medium-high speed for 10 minutes until eggs are lemon-colored and thick, the consistency of butter. Continue beating and add sugar gradually over the next 10 minutes, until mixture is thick. Beat up to 25 minutes.

4) Mix in the bread crumbs, the finely chopped nuts and the teaspoon of vanilla.

5) Using a clean bowl and beaters beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar, slowly at first, and then increase speed until stiff peaks form.

6) Fold ¼ of the egg whites into the yolk and nut mixture (it will be quite thick at first). Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and place it on a baking sheet in the pre-heated oven.

7) Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes. The torte will creep up the sides of the pan like a sponge cake. Remove when the torte is golden and springs back when touched in the center. After removing the torte from the oven, the center will deflate slightly. Let the torte cool completely in the pan. Use a flat knife or spatula to gently separate the sides of the torte from the pan before releasing the spring form. Remove the parchment.

8) Spread whipped cream sweetened with superfine sugar over the top of the torte and pipe additional cream in a circular rosette pattern.

The results are indeed festive. I cut a slice and place it in front of Mom. She takes a bite and smiles. “That’s it. That’s what it tasted like!” We each have two pieces.

Later, when she and Dad prepare to leave, Mom thanks me. “This allowed me to think back on some happy memories.”

And, I hope Tante Kremer is smiling too!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Special Holiday Glow

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, so while others flock to the mall, I’m nesting for much of the holiday season and continuing my personal exploration of Christmas culinary customs from around the world.

The rain and sleet pound against the windows, so I turn up the tree lights and turn on the radio, where George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is being broadcast live from lower Manhattan. It’s the perfect afternoon for a steaming glass of Gluhwein.

Gluhwein from Germany is a hot, spiced wine that is the European continental cousin to wassail, the classic Christmas punch from Great Britain. Gluhwein is a favorite in Munich, where hoards of shoppers huddle over hot mugs, while browsing the outdoor Christmas markets. There, they sample seasonal foods and can purchase Christmas ornaments, gifts, and the traditional Christmas stollen.

I improvise a recipe for Gluhwein from several versions of the drink:


1 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon
One lemon, sliced
One orange, slice
2 sticks of cinnamon
6 whole cloves
A pinch of cardamom

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and heat until steaming. Do not boil. Heat for about 5 minutes, and then remove from the heat and let stand for one hour. Reheat before serving, and strain. Pour into glasses or mugs and add fruit slices and cinnamon sticks for garnish.

The cup is fragrant with spice and warm tannins and a vibrant hint of tart citrus. It is definitely worth rejoicing over, and the Hallelujah Chorus chimes in right on cue.

As I’m igniting my holiday spirit in New York, my fearless, globe-trotting colleague BD has arrived in the city of Munich, just in time to visit the Christmas Market. In the style of a seasoned foreign correspondent, he offers dispatches and photos from the actual Medieval Christmas Market in Munich, where Gluhwein is the celebratory drink of the month:

BD writes:

“Here is further proof that I'm a lousy photographer, but you may be able to make something of these - all in the “Medieval Market” or Christmas Market, near Odeonplatz, in the heart of Munich … absolutely jammed, 20 minute wait for wine, but cheery atmosphere prevailing, though very cold ...brisk here but festive - and yes, the wine (while expensive, 26 euros for three glasses) does leave one with that special wintry inner illumination.”

BD leaves me with one final message for the holidays: “Glow for it!!!”

By the way, in case you hadn’t figured it out, Gluhwein, is translated as “Glow Wine” because it leaves you with that special glow.

May your holiday celebrations glow with happiness!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 17, 2007

Chocolate Crackles

Christmas is proclaimed with NOISE!

You hear the sound of Silver Bells in the snowy street. A multitude of Heavenly Hosts announce a miraculous birth. American colonists in the 18th century fire canons, shoot muskets and bang pots and pans to welcome Christmas morning. The British pop paper tubes called Christmas Crackers which conceal special trinkets. Drums sound in Ethiopia to welcome the feast of the Epiphany. A 17th century carol from Burgundy called Patapan recreates the sound of flute and drum in vocals.

Chocolate Crackles don’t make quite the same racket, but the double coating of granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar creates a pretty “crackling” effect on the tender bittersweet chocolate buttons. There is a slight crackle when you take a bite of this festive cookie, and it might even inspire you to sing!

I’m submitting this recipe to Susan, “The Food Blogga” who is hosting “Eat Christmas Cookies” this month, a global food blog event of Christmas cookies around the world. Take a bite of these snow-covered chocolate treats – and make a joyful noise this Christmas!

© 2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Barbara Kingsolver's Locally-Grown Miracle

Locally-grown food is all the rage these days. But, beyond a lovely salad or a succulent piece of grass-feed lamb, do you think you could exist for an entire year only on food that you'd grown yourself, or purchased from your neighbors?

Since my neighbor is an electrician, I'd probably starve.

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of a variety of best-selling works of non-fiction and fiction, including The Poisonwood Bible. Her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life chronicles a family experiment. Kingsolver, her husband and two daughters chose to follow a diet consisting almost exclusively of locally-grown food for an entire year.

Where does your food come from? How much does it cost to get it to your table? How would you handle the challenge of eating locally?

Kingsolver has an edge up on most of us. She lives on a farm in Virginia, located in an agricultural region of Appalachia. In the book, she covers a variety of familiar themes that have gained prominence recently in the press such as industrial faming and the concept of food miles. But unlike Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which at times felt overwhelmingly depressing, Kingsolver manages to weave hope, insight, and practical advice into every chapter. She is thought-provoking and inspiring and sometimes just a wee-bit-preachy, but the food sounds so delicious that it doesn’t really matter much.

The family is able to eat locally with great success, and in some months generates enormous yields. During the summer months they are simply overrun with zucchini. The details of daughter Lily’s home-grown egg business are fascinating, and Kingsolver’s “Vegetannual” – an imaginary plant that sprouts delicate vegetables in the spring and hard-skinned vegetables in autumn is an effective image to reinforce the inherent qualities of seasonal produce. Late in the book, the author does admit to keeping emergency boxes of macaroni & cheese for finicky guests (You go girl!) and while I could have done without the lengthy prose on turkey sex, it does reinforce how deeply involved you can become in the annual rhythms of agriculture. Kingsolver’s descriptions of raising and slaughtering animals for food are sobering but pragmatic. The family plans and strategizes over menus obsessively, and manages to keep freezers stocked with their yields that carry them through the lean winter months. And, they save a boat load of grocery money in the process.

The primary effect of the book is that it does get you thinking hard about food choices, and I am now much more conscious of those tiny labels that identify where my produce was grown. The possibility for change can sometimes seem overwhelming when you stand in the produce aisle and scan the mountains of fruits and vegetables that were shipped from thousands of miles away. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is less a manifesto, however, and more a handbook for thoughtful food choices. It features a cornucopia of resources woven into the text on sustainable agriculture, food policy, recipes and ways to locate and support farmers markets. There is a companion website which includes a link to an extensive site called Local Harvest. Here I learned there is indeed an organic community supported garden, a sustainable farm, and a restaurant serving local and organic produce not five miles away from my home. So, perhaps the ideal of revolutionizing my diet – even on the primarily urban East Coast – is not that far-fetched.

Just last night, I took note of a report in Time Out New York that a gentleman named Robert LaValva – the co-founder of a nonprofit organization called New Amsterdam Public – is looking to open a public market at the former Fulton Fish Market in New York. The goal is to offer sustainable food sourced from within 500 miles of New York. They’re hosting a prototype event called “Wintermarket” at the South Street Seaport on Sunday, December 16th. We may find that people like Barbara Kingsolver and her family will some day be looked on – not simply as a curiosity – but as pioneers, and their actions may eventually contribute to the fruition of projects like the proposed New Amsterdam Market.

It is possible that one family can foster a miracle.

© 2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chocolate Panforte – Siena Cake from Italy

If you plan to serve an 800-year-old Italian confection to guests this holiday season, you may need to take certain precautions. Cut slices thin, serve with a sharp steak knife, and be wary of morsels that fly across the table.

I usually take a couple of samples of my creations into the office, but I’m a little afraid of wrecking my boss’s dental work.

All joking aside …

I first learned of Panforte di Siena during a culinary pilgrimage to Tuscany and the medieval city of Siena, Italy in September 2006. The god Hades was in command of the late-summer day. It was hotter than hell, and difficult to find shade in the hilltop city.

It is said that there is an ancient document preserved in Siena, dated in the year 1205, which records a tax of “bread with pepper and honey” paid to a group of nuns. Panforte translates as “strong bread.” In fact, it uses only a small amount of flour and no leavening agent. There are a number of variations, but honey, strong spices, nuts and dried fruit are the common ingredients. It is incredibly dense, chewy and flavorful.

Those medieval nuns must have had powerful bicuspids.

Huge rounds of panforte, studded with hazelnuts grace the windows of bakeries in Sienna. They are captivating to the eye, topped with mounds of powdered sugar and command a high price.

More affordable are the smaller cakes, wrapped in paper, available in most stores and novelty shops, with Panforte Margherita a favorite.

Panforte is one of those cakes that is steeped in legend. Another tale says it was invented around the year 1000, when Siena began to import sugar and spices from the Far East. One story says a nun miraculously devised the recipe and drove away the devil with the heavenly aromas. Another links panforte to a miracle of the Baby Jesus. While it is widely known as a traditional Christmas cake, it is available year round, and it is difficult to track the clear association to the Christmas holidays.

For my re-creation, I choose a recipe for Chocolate Panforte that was devised by the legendary goddess of home keeping. It resembles Panforte Nero, which is flavored with bittersweet chocolate. The preparation involves combining unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, whole hazelnuts, dried cherries, flour, cinnamon and brandy with melted honey and brown sugar. The simmering honey melts the chocolate into a thick paste which is spread in a springform pan and dusted with cinnamon and cocoa powder.

The results are authentic, although the resulting cake could perhaps destroy a medieval fortification. While it does not slice easily, it is decadently dense with flavor, and it tastes subtly rich accompanied with a glass of dry sherry. A thin wedge goes a long way, but you need a powerful knife and fork to cut small bites. It is really quite wonderful, albeit, slightly inconvenient to eat.

I wrap up several slices for the gang at the office. I’m going to advise that they pick up the wedge and eat it with their fingers. The plastic forks in the pantry will never cut it with this medieval masterpiece.

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Elementary, My Dear Chef

Robert B. Parker’s Boston-based detective Spenser is a gourmet cook and Sue Grafton’s California private eye, Kinsey Millhone loves her Big Macs and Peanut Butter and Pickle sandwiches. Indeed, many famous literary detectives are obsessed with food.

But could the World’s Greatest Detective boil water? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, Sherlock Holmes was renowned for his brilliant deductive mind, his cocaine habit and his ever-present chronicler Dr. John Watson, yet food is not the first association one makes with the famous consulting detective. Or is it? Recently uncovered evidence suggests otherwise.

The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook was published in 1976 and written by Sean Wright and John Farrell, two Holmes devotees. The authors assert that food was ever present at Holmes’ and Watson’s flat at 221-B Baker Street in London.

The year 2007 marks the 120th anniversary of the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes adventure. Various celebrations are underway, including the American premiere of the play “The Secret of Sherlock Holmes” at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. So it seems a fitting tribute to revisit the Sherlock Holmes Cookbook and explore the cuisine of 1890 London by gaslight.

Part one investigates late-Victorian era dishes, and you’ll find traditional recipes for Bubble and Squeak, Roast Grouse, and Hotch Potch, all delicacies likely to have been consumed by Holmes and Watson. The second-half of the book is comprised of clever menus designed as homage to the most famous, or infamous of Sherlock Holmes’ sixty recorded cases. There are recipes for “Moriarty’s Mulled Cider” (Holmes’ greatest nemesis), “More than Six Napoleons” (“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”) and “Hellish Hound Punch” (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”).

The authors say that “breakfast is the preeminent Sherlockian meal” and Holmes’ long-suffering housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson would have prided herself on preparing a proper English breakfast for the duo. Indeed, the recipe included for Scotch Woodcock – a dish of scrambled eggs and anchovies – is the ultimate Victorian culinary curiosity, particularly for those of us who are more accustomed to starting our day with a bowl of Cheerios.

Scotch Woodcock

4 eggs
4 slices buttered toast
1 ½ tablespoons anchovy paste
8 anchovy fillets
Capers for garnish

Scramble the eggs. Spread toast with anchovy paste and place eggs on top. Criss-cross each piece with 2 anchovy fillets and sprinkle with chopped capers. Serves 2.

To supplement my hearty breakfast of Scotch Woodcock, I’ll indulge in a spot of English Breakfast Tea prepared in my authentic Sherlock Holmes tea pot.

As the great detective would say, “The game is afoot!”

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dutch Speculaas Cookies for Saint Nicholas Day

Who is Saint Nicholas, and why is he handing out gifts on December 6th? Doesn’t he know that Christmas is December 25th?

And what about that thing he’s got for wooden shoes?

While it might be easy to assume that the image of jolly old Saint Nick was invented, or at least perpetuated by the Coca-Cola Company, the origins of the miraculous giver of gifts reach back to Europe and the Netherlands in the Middle Ages.

The real-life Saint Nicholas was born in Asia Minor and lived in the late third and fourth centuries. He was renowned for his generosity and is given credit for many good deeds, including saving three penniless sisters from a life of prostitution and rescuing a group of young travelers from an evil innkeeper. He is also the patron saint of seafarers. Over time, the generosity and charitable deeds attributed to Saint Nicholas evolved into a tradition of gift-giving, one that continues to this day in the Netherlands.

Here in the New York area, there is a distinctly Dutch influence. One can find fanciful windmills on Long Island where the Dutch settled and during December, Saint Nicholas Day traditions are recreated at several historic Dutch homes in the Hudson Valley. Dutch immigrants brought the customs of Saint Nicholas to the New World, but eventually Saint Nicholas got a makeover and became the roly-poly man in the red suit with the massive publicity machine that we now know as Santa Claus.

The feast day for the original Saint Nicholas is still celebrated on December 6th in the Netherlands. On the night of December 5th, Saint Nicholas visits homes and leaves gifts of fruit, nuts and cookies for good children. Dutch youngsters leave wooden shoes by the fireplace as a receptacle for these gifts.

Speculaas is a Dutch almond spice butter cookie that marks the arrival of Saint Nicholas Day in the Netherlands and heralds the start of the holiday season. My search for the origins of Saint Nicholas takes me to a website which details his story. There I learn that speculaas is often shaped before baking using traditional hand-carved wooden molds that depict the image of Saint Nicholas. For the past 25 years, Illinois-based wood carver Gene Wilson has perfected the art of hand-carved cookie molds from beech and cherry hardwoods. I purchase two “deep cavity speculaas molds” depicting Saint Nicholas for my yuletide baking.

The recipe for speculaas is simple and fragrantly-spiced cookie dough that is reminiscent of gingerbread. I can’t resist a nibble here and there of the buttery cookie dough, as I bake:

Dutch Speculaas Cookies for Saint Nicholas Day

Source: June and Gene Wilson, HOBI Picture Cookie Molds

1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup brown sugar firmly packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 – Cream margarine. Add sugar, spices. Cream until fluffy.
2 – Add extract and 3 tablespoons milk, beat to blend.
3 – Add flour and baking powder, a little at a time, blending well.
4 – Cover dough lightly; chill for 3 hours or more.
5 – Press dough into wooden mold sprinkled with powdered sugar and trim excess dough. Release from mold and place on cookie sheet.

6 – Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes

I’m submitting this recipe to Susan “The Food Blogga” who is hosting “Eat Christmas Cookies” this month, the biggest holiday cookie swap the blogosphere has ever seen!

My Dutch speculaas cookies are ready to enjoy with a spot of tea for Saint Nicholas Day, but there are other ways to honor the ancient saint of charitable good deeds and generosity. A spontaneous donation to a favorite charity would be a great way to keep the legend of Saint Nicholas alive.

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

©2007 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved